Yankees, wind blow by O's, 1-0

Breeze aids homer of Ventura, holds up Segui bid in O's loss

Wells out-duels Johnson

`If fair was fair, we would have won 2-0,' Hargrove says

April 04, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Who needs mystique and aura when you can control the wind?

That's how the Orioles felt last night after the New York Yankees huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 victory before 32,142 at Camden Yards.

Jason Johnson and David Wells staged an early season pitchers' duel that basically boiled down to a tale of two swings. In the fourth inning, Orioles designated hitter David Segui hit a blast that died in the center-field wind. In the seventh, Robin Ventura hit a towering drive that inched over the right-field wall for the decisive home run.

"If fair was fair, we would have won the game 2-0," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "Segui hit the ball probably as well as anybody all night. He just didn't hit it in the right place."

With a game-time temperature of 53 degrees, and strong winds swirling throughout the park, this was an offensive struggle in sharp contrast to two days earlier, when the Orioles claimed a 10-3 victory on a sunshine-filled Opening Day.

Wells (1-0) held the Orioles to four hits and didn't allow a runner to reach third base in 7 1/3 innings. Johnson (0-1) saw his tough luck continue and remained winless since Aug. 6 despite holding the Yankees to six hits in 7 2/3 innings.

Mariano Rivera earned the save in his first appearance since taking the loss in Game 7 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees have a lot of new faces, considering they have won four consecutive American League pennants, making mystique and aura part of baseball's postseason lexicon.

Wells isn't exactly a new face. He won 34 games for the Yankees over two seasons before getting traded to Toronto for Roger Clemens in 1999. With some sweet talk from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Wells agreed to come back this past off-season, signing a two-year, $7 million deal.

After shedding 30 pounds over the winter, Wells took a sleeker physique to the mound last night and pitched a lot like his old self. His lone mistake was the fourth-inning pitch to Segui, which looked like a home run off the bat but didn't even make it to the warning track.

Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams reached up and caught it about 10 feet shy of the 410-foot sign on the outfield fence. Segui waved his arms in disgust and Chris Singleton, who had singled to start the inning, had to retreat to first base.

"That's as hard as I could hit it," Segui said. "The wind was blowing hard. It was a tough wind. But the conditions were the same for both teams."

Said Wells: "I thought that was way gone. But I saw Bernie camping under it and said OK."

Wells said he purposely kept pitching the ball inside to right-handed hitters because he saw the way the balls kept dying.

Three innings later, the left-handed-hitting Ventura reached over home plate and pulled Johnson's changeup down the right-field line. The ball traveled an estimated 342 feet and carried just over the out-of-town scoreboard.

"I didn't think he hit it good enough to hit it out," Hargrove said. "Robin's a strong guy and the wind took it. I'm not going to say it was a wind-blown home run. He hit it well enough to give it a chance to go."

Said Johnson: "It wasn't a bad pitch. It was exactly where I wanted it. It was a good changeup moving low and away. It just so happened he was out in front of it."

Ventura and Wells are two of the 15 new players the Yankees added after losing the World Series. Another newcomer, first baseman Jason Giambi, is 1-for-8 through the first two games.

After Segui's long out, the Orioles didn't threaten again until the seventh inning. Tony Batista, whose grand slam off Clemens sparked Monday's victory, reached with two outs as Williams dropped a pop-up for an error.

Mora walked, putting runners at first and second, and up stepped Jay Gibbons. Hargrove has said he will let the left-handed-hitting Gibbons hit against left-handers this year, and Gibbons had an opposite-field single off Wells in the third inning.

But this time, Gibbons swung at Wells' first pitch and hit a weak pop-up into foul territory, which Ventura caught to end the inning. Gibbons slammed his bat into the ground in frustration.

Those feelings continued for the Orioles into the eighth inning, as Mike Bordick hit a one-out double off Wells for his first hit of the season. Yankees manager Joe Torre pulled Wells, replacing him with another newcomer, Steve Karsay, who got Jerry Hairston to fly to right field for the out.

The Orioles have tried to get Hairston to hit the ball on the ground more, especially in the leadoff role, but Hairston flew to the outfield in each of his four at-bats.

Bordick tagged up and reached third base, so the Orioles had the tying run 90 feet away. But Torre replaced Karsay with left-hander Mike Stanton, and Singleton flied out to center, ending the inning.

"We pitched well enough," Hargrove said. "We played defense well enough, and we hit the ball hard enough. We gave ourselves a chance to win, and that's all you can ask."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Yankees' Mike Mussina (17-11, 3.15 in 2001) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (5-10, 4.94 in 2001)

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